There’s always some trepidation when an artist crosses over to an entirely new medium, particularly when they come from music. And there’s a REASON that trepidation exists, so when Gerard Way, formerly of My Chemical Romance, started up a series, it was met with a lot of skepticism. Then the series, both volumes, was amazing. His follow-up wasn’t as strong, but at the very least it did something interesting and unique and had a very specific style. And why not? It turns out that not only did Way study comic book art in his youth, he actually had short stint with DC! So there was actually reason to be thrilled with his debut at Marvel Comics in a one-shot that would allow him to realize another bizarre vision and WOO does he. This issue introduces us to the teenager Peni Parker after her father, was killed in action piloting the mechanized SP//dr suit. She takes up his mantle as we see her defending a futuristic city from one of the most beautifully strange versions of Mysterio I’ve ever seen and if all that sounds impenetrably weird, it’s actually far more straightforward than it appears. Though this is a chaotic world and Way writes it as such, flinging Peni from one cover to the next, but he writes her with a kind of lovable detachment that makes her a pleasure to follow and that’s a very difficult needle to the thread. Way manages it, partially by giving her a loveable sidekick, apparently this universe’s riff on Daredevil, who also knew her father. He becomes a big part of her emotional investment in this world and, even moreso, into what she has taken on.
Jake Wyatt came to my attention when he stepped into the massive shoes of art on MS. MARVEL and acquitted himself extremely well, no easy task I can assure you. On this issue, he shows that he’s no one-hit wonder, bringing a kinetic, hyper verve to the setting and characters. Wyatt does an amazing job moving seamlessly between a certain rigidity of dramatic scenes and an incredible fluidity of the action scenes, creating a beautiful staccato that lets the reader catch their breath before hurling them into another scene. This too is a difficult concept to get just right as it could wind up with the reader being disoriented in the transition, but it’s done smoothly enough that it serves the book’s strange tone. Ian Herring handles the colors and here too is an interesting juxtaposition: the colors are rich and full, but very dark in spite of the rather upbeat feel of the issue’s overall tone.
This issue is incredibly surreal and, like many of its Edge of Spider-Verse bretheren, feels like it could (perhaps should) occupy more than one issue. The combination of its bizarre tone and extremely compact storytelling is just a little off-putting, but only because I find myself wanting more.
We just saw one SPIDER-VERSE tale get a (well-deserved) solo-story and honestly I think this is a setting that could sustain another one. Alternate universes have always, to me, felt like small pockets of indie comics in the midst of the Big Two as they aren't as tied down by things like massive continuity and a need to go back to the established status quo. There are also some delightfully cheeky references to the very clear inspirations for a lot of the setting and character designs that you don't even need to be terribly eagle-eyed to catch. This is a solid standalone, but what would be truly great is seeing it with the more even pacing of multiple issues.